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tv   This Week in Northern California  PBS  February 23, 2013 1:00pm-1:30pm PST

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two months after 20 schoolchildren and 6 adults are gunned down at sandy hook elementary school, a national conversation about gun control rages on. how can we prevent another mass shooting? but some communities face a relentless reality of gun violence every day. >> please, please stop killing our babies. >> bay area residents demand action. >> stop the violence! >> to something! >> what are the effects and how can it be stopped? plus oakland's controversial new police consultant bill bratton as he prepares to tackle
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violence on the streets. coming up next. good evening. welcome to a special edition of "this week in northern california." i'm jamie floyd. the shootings at sandy hook have sparked a new national dialogue about guns. pbs has dedicated much of this week's programming to exploring the alarming rise of gun violence around the country and especially to so-called rampage killings. yet in many urban communities, some right here in northern california, people live with
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pervasive gun violence on a daily basis. tonight, we devote our full program to the topic of gun violence here in the bay area. later we'll hear from a panel of experts. but first, a group of citizens fed up with the violence are pleading to be heard. their story was reported in collaboration with students from the uc berkeley graduate school of journalism. >> what do we want? >> peace! >> when do we want it? >> now! >> every saturday morning a group of oakland residents gathers at a site of a recent murder to protest gun violence in their city. >> stop the violence! stop the violence! do something! >> they call themselves s.a.v.e., an acronym for soldiers against violence everywhere. >> we are soldiers. we're out here in the rain, cold, doing what we do. >> s.a.v.e. was started in 2010 by the pastor at oakland's true vine ministries church after a
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member of his congregation was shot and killed. >> we sort of took a page from the civil right's movement where they would go to the lunch counters and sit in until they were arrested. so we do stand-ins. we go to the community where someone has been murdered and we go and protest in the community about the violence. >> we are here to support you, let you know that your grandson will never be forgotten. >> i'm here today to support my grandson, aaron, that was killed last month. actually on november 24th. so i'm here to support him to let everyone know that he did have a family. these are our babies. please put these guns away. >> julia ford's grandson was one of oakland's 131 homicide victims in 2012. the murder rates have been dropping steadily nationwide, oakland saw a 20% spike in homicides last year.
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this has prompted citizen outrage. >> hey, oakland is no different than any other city. people go to work every day. the only difference is that at any given moment, they can be caught in crossfire. that has to stop. that has to stop, and we pay our taxes to be protected and we want protection. >> as oakland residents demand action, the city police force has suffered years of cutbacks, and now has 25% fewer officers compared to five years ago. meanwhile, the department continues to work to meet decade-old court-ordered reform. has turned to william bratton, a former police chief who is often credited with reducing crime in los angeles and new york. but some civil rights groups are critical of his tactics. he will make his first official boots on the ground visit to oakland early next month. the city retained him as part of
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a $250,000 contract with his consulting firm. earlier today i spoke with bill bratton. he says he needs to assess the situation firsthand before offering any specific prescriptions for oakland, but there are lessons to be learned from other cities. he joined us from new york. william bratton, thank you so much for coming in to talk to us today. as you know, the last time america had a very serious gun control debate was in the early 1990s. of course, you were chief of police in the new york city area. and that was followed by a two decades decline in crime. i was hope we could begin by having you put that decline in crime in context. >> the investment in the '90s was 100,000 additional police were hired. additional money went into research, into prisons, into rehabilitation efforts. research was critical. there was the assault weapons
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ban on certain types of assault weapons. the impact of that particular piece of the legislation is still being debated. some studies indicate it had an impact. some studies indicate it did not. from my own perspective, i look at every life saved is a plus. every incident that didn't occur is a plus. it is quite clear that hundreds of thousands of individuals who did not get access to those type weapons, that clearly there would have been incidents that would have occurred with those weapons but for that intervention. >> what is your feeling about what president obama has proposed? >> the new initiative, by the president, has a number of elements. one, is a significant expansion of the requirement for background screening. right now, 40% of the weapons purchased in the united states are bought at gun shows. congress deliberately excluded them from the background check provision. and so many of the guns, i believe the majority of guns used in crimes today, many of them come from that one
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particular source. so closing that loophole would go a long way toward reducing illegal firearms or firearms of any type in the hands of a criminal population. second initiative is the idea of changing the magazine clips that fit into many of these weapons so that they can only hold a certain number of rounds. as yet undetermined. i think that would be beneficial because an individual has to change a clip during a course of one of these mass shootings, that presents an opportunity to interrupt that behavior. a third initiative that is being made is, once again, a ban on assault weapons. i happen to think that one is not likely to pass. it's unfortunate, but i just don't think despite all of it that it's going to pass. the fourth one that's very important also is additional efforts dealing with the mentally ill. that in so many of these instances it is quite clear that the shooters, if you will, are
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dealing with significant mental issues, mental incapacity. and there's so much more that we can do in dealing with that particular part of the population. we can do a much better job preventing people from getting guns, whether mentally incapacitated or criminals from getting easy access to gun shows. and then on the reactive side, we also have the ability, if you commit a crime with a gun, and you are not significantly mentally incapacitated, where you're going to go off to a mental facility, you go to jail. you go to jail for a significant period of time. that's what worked in the '90s. 21st century. significant reduction of crime. we focus on prevention and focus on those who are committing the crimes. >> so that leads me to the question i must ask about stop and frisk. and i think you prefer stop, question, and frisk. >> i was just going to correct you there, young lady, on that. everybody likes to leave out the middle part of that. it's a three-part process. >> say why you think so, and i
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know you don't want to speak specifically about oakland, but in most urban centers there's some tension on stop and frisk. how do you address that concern and why do you think it's a policy that works, an applicable tool? >> it is a constitutionally protected activity by police. challenge for police is to do it legally, compassionately, consistently. not just in poor neighborhoods, not just in minority neighborhoods. that is the issue, unfortunately, around the country because that's where it's most frequently used because, unfortunately, that is where the majority of crime, both serious and minor, is committed. that's the reality of our lives, our society. it is an essential tool of policing. can't police be better trained, supervised and monitored? i think they can. but those that are advocating it be done away with are representing it can be done away with, i'm sorry that you do away with it and you're going to have your cities overrun with crime because it is the basic tool that every police department in
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america uses. >> when you come into a major metropolitan area to consult, what are you looking for? what -- what do you take stock of when you assess a situation, a crisis situation like the one that city officials are facing? >> i won't speak to the oakland situation, i've not been there yet. in the case of consultants, you're usually brought in to do a specific assignment. depending on what the individual city's issues are, my case, a consultants what they're looking for us to do, it's about diagnosing the illness and taking your experience. what's worked elsewhere that might be applicable for your particular client or patient. this stuff is not rocket science. this is, for 40 years i've been doing it, and i think for 40 years pretty successfully. and that's good news because it is transferable, it is
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modifiab modifiable. >> bill bratton, we thank you for your time and wish you all the best in oakland. >> jamie, great to be with you. all the best. now to our panel. joining me tonight, allison briscoe-smith, director of the center for the vulnerable child at children's hospital in oakland. eva paterson, president and founder of the equal justice society. and journalist mina kim from, kqed's "california report." mina, i want to start with you. you've been in the trenches reporting on this issue. bill brantton in new york, but not in oakland. he's had success in those cities bringing down the crime rate. that's a hopeful sign. what challenges in your experience with your reporting will he face if he works with chief george in oakland? >> i think his biggest challenge is he's going to be a lightning rod for the community. he's already shown himself to be that because of his support and use of stop and frisk. i'm not sure his very strong
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defense of stop and frisk will go over well with community members concerned about the racial profiling that might occur if stop and frisk is used. already chief jordan said that will not be implemented and bill bratton will have a limited role, but bill bratton will be facing other challenges besides having a limited role. one is the fact he's dealing with a city that's had a big spike in violent crime, that's lost a couple hundred plif pol officers in the last few years and being scrutinized by the federal court. >> let's talk a little more about what you've seen in oakland. the reduction in the police force, although reporting recently that there will be additions made to the force in oakland and elsewhere in northern california. but let's -- you've written, you've dug really deeply into this issue and written extensively about, and reported extensively on the "california report" about oakland residents pleading for officials to pay attention to killings in oak. say more about what's happening on the streets in the oakland community. >> what i found is that folks in
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oakland feel like they're under siege. i think they're really hopeful the attention that's being paid to gun violence after newtown will help to bring more attention. and the group that we profiled at the very beginning, s.a.v.e., is group i spoke with. one of the things they're trying to do besides just trying to get more attention is also to try to jolt their own community out of an exhaustion and sense of numbness from dealing with all of these shootings all the time. because in that numbness, while it's certainly an understandable response to constant shootings, it creates a lack of action and they want to see more action from the ground-up, from the community-up. so that's one thing i'm seeing. the other thing is, i'm hearing frustration about it constantly being pegged as gang-related killings. what the community are experiencing are grandmothers dying, their babies dying. to keep calling it gang-related to them i think sounds like it's a way for community leaders or for the city leaders or for state leaders to act like they have some control over the situation.
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as opposed to really addressing the situation the way the community is experiencing it. which is innocent people being killed. >> and to get the media to respond in an appropriate fashion. >> right. i think they'd like to see that change, too. >> eva patpaterson, let me turn you. why are you so passionate about this issue? is it personal? is it political? both? and what's your response when you hear that bill bratton is coming in to consult in oakland? as he has in many other places. detroit, we know he's been a commissioner in three major urban centers with some success. as an oakland resident, as someone who is the founder of the equal justice society, what's your response? personal, political, both? and why? >> i have a range of responses. i'm having dinner with a very close friend of mine who's a philanthropist in oakland. we were lamenting the fact this is going on and on and on. when i watch those parents, i wonder, i have to put this on myself, where are people like me? i'm a civil rights lawyer. i live in oakland. why am i not trying to figure
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out some answer to this? where are the corporate leaders of oakland? why is it left to the moms and dads on the street? >> and the preachers. >> exactly. thank god for them. i'm also very nervous about bill bratton. stop and frisk generally results in people of color being stopped. there's a prominent lawyer who you probably know who lives in oakland. he was stopped in the driveway of his home and was stopped by the oakland police. now, we don't want to malign the police. we all need protection. but what happens is that certain stereotypes about men of color come into play and it affects who's stopped. and that's what's very unnerving. there's an epidemic of an overincarceration of black and brown people. it starts with stop and frisk. an activity that might be seen as a harmless activity, if engaged in by a white kid, if it's a black or brown kid, they're going to juvi. a white kid may be sent home, don't do that again. it starts this school-to-prison pipeline.
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it just starts a whole array of problems. so stop and frisk, i think, is really problematic. in los angeles, i believe there was a code called nhi. it meant no human involved. this was a police code which meant black and brown people. the work we've done on brain science and behavioral science seems to indicate that many people associate criminality with black people. and brown people. so having the stop and frisk as a way to deal with this i think is an overreaction and is a way that we might just cause more harm. >> very concerning. i want to come back to the brain science. we talk solutions in just a moment. i want to turn now to you, dr. briscoe-smith for more of the real world impact on this. i know you, as well, mina, have looked at this as a health issue. this is a health issue. isn't it? a public health issue. >> right. it's a public health issue that has broad ramifications for how people are doing and
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functioning. and even to take it back to the health implications in the brain science, we have lots of evidence that being exposed to this level of chronic trauma really impacts people's functioning. and their brain. >> how so? what does it do to a community to be under siege? picking up on what mina said earlier. over time, this level of violence and the number of deaths in a community. it's not just oakland. we could name a number of communities in the bay area and across the country that are under siege. we see a sandy hook and see a number of deaths. 20 children, 6 adults plus the kill aer and his mother. but over time we see a volume of deaths in a single community. that must have an impact on the psyche of the people who live in that community. >> has an impact on the psyche of the community and impact on the body and minds of those who live in the community as well. so there's robust research to really document living in circumstances of chronic trauma will actually impact brain
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development and potential for health development. and also have impacts in terms of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes. there are a number of impacts that are really documented. >> there's research to support that. >> to support that being exposed to chronic levels of trauma does that. and there's, actually i was on the phone on the way here with a researcher from san francisco veterans administration looking into some of that work. the animal models are there. unfortunately the people models are there, too. it's chronic stress is another way of kind of thinking about it. when one has to always be worried about whether or not you're going to be harmed, it impacts the body. >> give us a real world example. what do you see in your practice? who are the people we're talking about? you know, there is, as mina suggests, this notion that we're talking about gang violence. and often we are. and not that those lives should be discounted, either. but what do you see? you're working with children often, or young people, juveniles. but it's not just the victim that's affected. >> no, not just the victim, but the family around them. so we work with many children at
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children's hospital with children in foster care. so we have a program that specializes in kids zero to 3. those are kids zero to 3 exposed to chronic trauma around them. also within their families. but also many of the folks we serve have been witness to the type of violence or actually direct victims. what we see is developmental regression, lack of progression. we see parents unable to meet the needs of the children because they're so highly traumatized. we see children and infants actually stiff and unable to respond. we see really day to day a dramatic impact. there's also a dramatic impact of being able to help and intervene and call folks together. but i think as mina describes before, numbness, hypervigilance, feelings of no future, are all kind of characteristics of being highly traumatized. >> at the same time, i don't want to pa thologize any community. this is not unique to oakland,
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not unique to any community in northern california, richmond, emeryville. this is a problem in many communities across the country, and it is a systemic problem, is it not? >> it is. i was also really resonating with what you said. my fiance was murdered. i am an upper income professional. this was 16 years ago. i'm still dealing psychologically with the impact. >> gun violence, eva? >> he was shot in the head in kingston, jamaica. i'm still dealing with that. i've had therapy. if i'm in east oakland and this is happening every day and i'm 6 years old, you and i were talking about the children. do you want to tell the story about the kids that were going to the library? >> right. the children that were walking to the library and couldn't go because there was a shootout by their school. they were on lockdown. they had to go the next day with a police escort. the kids were very aware they are in a situation of violence. they are very much aware of what's going on around them. it's hard to see little kids reflecting that back to you.
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>> we cannot have a conversation that is solely about the problem, i want to talk about the solution. so let's go around with a panel of women who are so committed to these issues. let me start, mina, with you. you've talked to people about solutions in your reporting. what have you found? >> i talked with both physicians and also with the community. to begin with the public health officials i talked to, they felt like applying certain awareness campaigns that were effective with other public health issues, like drunk driving, for example, when they raised awareness that it's okay to intervene if someone is drunk and about to get behind the wheel. they're saying it's okay to intervene if somebody's going through a bad patch and have access to a gun. go in there and say, hey, you know, let's get the gun out of the house for a while. because what they're trying to talk about is not just gun homicides, but also gun suicides because gun suicides can lead to homicide. i mean, arguably, the event in newtown, he could have been suicidal and taking out as many people as he could before he took himself. so they're talking about that
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kind of -- if there's a way to actually, you know, make people feel like that is an allowable, reasonable, publicly supported intervention, that could reduce people's access to guns when going through a bad patch. >> eva, solutions? >> i want to go back to the kids, because we were all just torn up about the kids at sandy hook. and also the kids who were survivors, and everyone was sad, and that was a good thing. but think of the kids you were just talking about who go through this every day. what are we doing for them? maybe you do this at your hospitals, but i think some type of therapy, psychological support, not just for the kids, but for the parents. in my discussions this week about this topic with people in oakland, people said, people aren't getting educated. so you can't get a job. one good way to make money is to sell drugs. if you're selling drugs, you're going to come in to violence because things are really crazy. there's this chain reaction. the last thing, what i talked about before, why am i not meeting with those parents on the street in oakland?
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why isn't the head of clorox not meeting with them? why aren't we feeling like a community of oakland rather than, oh, isn't it terrible what's going on? i have some responsibility as well. i think many of us do. maybe this show will be a catalyst for having that kind of conversation. but we're some smart people in oakland. i need to know you. i need to work with you. i need to connect with you. i work with you. >> and in richmond, san jose, emeryville. and in places that, perhaps, aren't under siege, reaching across the border to places that are. doctor, your solution? >> i think there are actually a number of solutions that are available. you know, as much as we have research about the negative impact, we also have lots of research there are things that work. there are trauma informed and evidence-based therapies available that we provide at children's and a number of folks provide throughout the east bay. there are also folks up in arms, folks that are kind of coalescicoalesc coalescing and doing work. work that's done at some of the high schools, youth empowerment, youth uprising, there's a number
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of folks that are really getting folks together, getting the youth together to really stop. they feel this impact in ways that, you know, many people don't. they are seeing their friends and community be torn apart. there's an uprising. i think there's a means of actually interrupting on this pipeline. you articulated a pipeline which i think is true. a pipeline that goes into the prison industrial complex, a pipeline that actually moves black and brown out of the way. but there's a way to interrupt that. >> once you're in that pipeline, it's very hard to break out. >> very. the systems that are involved. whether it's a juvenile justice or foster care, or those kinds of systems. i think there are ways of interrupting that system before. i think there's education and attention, support for parents. and i think there's actually a lot of work that's going on and a lot of hopefulness because we are under so much despair and so much rage. i think that is actually something we can motivate to interrupt the cycle. there are things that can be done.
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>> i mean, one of the things i was hearing about actually, people are getting to know their neighbo neighbors. connecting with them. there's been a growth in neighborhood watch programs. growth in social media and other ways of connecting with each other to come together and protect their community. >> less isolation i think is the key. i think perhaps in the media we can do more to help people be aware of this isolation that whaz has occurred. i want to thank all of you for being here tonight, to help, as you suggested, spark a conversation about what's happening in our communities. and as you say, perhaps sandy hook can, as it seems to have in our country, start this conversation about what's happening in neighborhoods every day across our country. thank you, ladies, all so much for being here. and that's all for tonight, but the conversation does continue online. visit for our interactive map of oakland. it details the thousands of gun-related crimes reported in 2012. there's also a link to the pbs series "after newtown" and much
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more. i'm jamie floyd. thank you so much for watching, and good night.
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